Law School named #1 in commitment to public serviceThe Law School has been named Public Interest Law School of the Year by the American Bar Association.
The Law Student Division of the ABA chose Chicago based on its continuum of work in public interest law. Law School groups and organizations spent more than 94,000 hours in public service activities during the 1994-95 academic year, said Ellen Cosgrove, Dean of Student Affairs at the Law School.
"That's a great number," Cosgrove said. "Because the vast majority of this work is legal assistance, and given that our students are not billed out at $100 an hour, the Law School is making a contribution to humanity of more than $9 million a year. For a school that does not have a mandatory probono program, that's very high."
Douglas Baird, Dean of the Law School, said the importance of public interest work at the school goes well beyond numbers of hours in legal assistance work. The Law School seeks to give all its students a firm grounding in the law as a learned profession, he said, not just a legal tool box.
"We want to teach our students to live well in the law," Baird said. "We want them to know that practicing law at the highest level -- whether as a corporate lawyer or a public defender -- means doing interesting and important things that, in the end, make the world a better place. A commitment to public service is an integral part of being a lawyer of the first rate, regardless of the kind of practice one has."
Cosgrove said she is proud to have Chicago's work stack up so well against perennial "public interest" schools. "I knew we would be up against law schools that have mandatory public service programs. It is a great honor to have our students, faculty, staff and friends recognized for their work with the community."
The public interest services at the University of Chicago include:
_ The Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, which at any given time has 80 students working an average of 12 hours a week each on issues such as child-support enforcement.
_ The Neighbors program, through which more than 90 students each year participate in community outreach. Students are involved in projects such as Big Brothers and Little Sisters as well as tutoring programs and assistance at day-care centers and centers for the elderly.
_ The Immigration & Refugee Law Society, a student-organized program involving about 30 students that primarily represents individuals in deportation hearings.
_ The Clemency Project, a council consisting of lawyers, activists, law students and formerly incarcerated women that files clemency petitions on behalf of battered women throughout the state. In 1994, Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar released four women whose petitions for clemency were filed by this group.
_ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, a group of students who prepare income tax returns for individuals and families making less than $15,000 a year.
_ Street Law, an organization of 65 students who address Hyde Park-area high schools on leading legal issues of interest to young people.
_ The Chicago Law Foundation, an organization of nine board members and 26 volunteers that raises money for grants to law students who want to work for a public service organization.